Wednesday, October 31, 2012

India - A case for farm work mechanization and rural modernization

India is a vast country with over 1.2 billion people. That is combined number of people of US and Europe and then some. Countries like India had to commence industrial development overnight with the advent of independence with out much time or training to its people. When British left India according to Angus Madison's eminent British economists calculation India went from a contributor of 22% to the global economy to 3% to the global economy with a population of about 450 million and over 90% either uneducated or under educated with labouring skills at best as a human resource. Green Revolution in India in the 1960s due to the development of dwarf non lodging varieties saved Indians from literal starvation. The British had looted and scooted India without as much as a single pound of compensation or payment for all the grain looted from India for its War effort. In this scenario despite no support from the British what so ever India commenced its Industrialization with little or no skilled people on one hand, lack of finances on the other and grinding poverty famine and fragmented country to top it all.

In the background of all these was the Gandhi's appropriate pre-independence value of Swadeshi (with in own country) and the ideology of self reliance and multitude of political opinions from people who had not even run a chicken raffle leave alone a country with diverse complex problems. India thought self reliance means developing everything indigenous and with local labour force. That was fine if they had skills for a modern India that was urgently needed. The ideology seems to be more important than grinding poverty of masses. Indian population policy first to be developed in the world in 1950 was never implemented. Indian the then PM Nehru thought a socialistic system of government modelled along the lines of Russia would somehow give all the equality social justice and jobs needed by the peoples of India. Practical considerations were not looked at carefully or analysed carefully prior to implementing all intellectually based ideas rather than practical business and economy based ideas. India went from one 5 year plan to the next with minimal development either in the industrial or agricultural sectors. True there was a glimmer of hope now and then when satellites were launched and men went to the space. However India with out the required productivity without govt spend on welfare or infrastructure development until 1990s was grinding itself slowly but surely to bankruptcy and nearly came towards defaulting payments of its loans.

India has been referred to in articles as a "Reluctant Urbanizer". Yes India has failed to urbanize and develop countries infrastructure and more recently set it self a goal of developing 20km or road per day but has only met a target of about 12km/day. There are numerous reasons for this. However India has failed its rural population more than its urban population by hiding behind providing jobs to everyone and keeping the rural jobs labour intensive and preventing to a large extent by lack of incentives the mechanization of the farm work. It is a myth that mechanization of farm work will make people loose jobs. People will loose jobs only when they don't get prepared to take on the new jobs. Private sector at least to some extent as in the article below has now woken up to the fact and started the training process.

Mechanization per se has more benefits than negatives. First of all there are direct benefits where a farmer can access equipment to sow or harvest crops on time quickly and loose very little grain while harvesting. This means the standard of the harvest will be better safety will be higher and and quality of the work and harvest yield will be higher. Next let us say farmers daughter or son wants to train in the equipment and if they do they can not only work on their farm but start a business by contract sowing and harvesting. Then mechanization of spraying can lead to not only timely spraying and less use of chemicals but also development of businesses by those who own the equipment. Indirectly there are local sellers, distributors and repairers of these equipment leading to more businesses and employment in the areas. Rural youth then get employed at a much higher level jobs in the rural area but those who start businesses can hire apprentices and staff too. Since it is mechanized both men and women can partake in this activity as skill is the basis not the body strength. This has been the situation in the west. India is not so unique that it has to keep its people poor and in labouring jobs. Skilling up people is the key. Since mechanization will bring more prosperity farmers children can get better educated too as income levels of the family go up either directly or indirectly. India should not hide behind "aam admi" or "ordinary peoples" interest as if keeping them with crumbs of the economic development is a very satisfactory outcome of the growth boom.

Companies such as those below should be encouraged with incentives to provide training to rural youth men and women to develop mechanization skills not only in operation of the equipment but in repairs, distribution network development, innovation of new equipment, small business skills and financial literacy. Banks should be encouraged to provide loans to those who can develop these rural businesses to encourage rural youth to stay work and thrive in rural areas. Time for keeping rural people poor and hungry for vested interests is over.

I do hope everyone who sees this article will inspire someone to undertake this training. With over 52% of the population of India based in rural areas it is not possible to develop with out use of technology. IT is not the only technology rural youth in India require. Rural areas require modernization as much as urban areas. These farmers produce over 250 million tonnes of grain to feed India. However Indian urban people are failing them by not encouraging and providing pathway for rural modernization.

Please read a relevant article here

Equipped to Farm ( article from The Hindu 31 Oct 2012)

Rural youth get training in farm techniques to address the gap in agri-productivity and food production

Technical skills and training were provided to unemployed rural youth for gainful employment in local villages. Under a certification programme, crop nutrition and agri-solution company, Tata Chemicals Ltd trained 20 farm technicians recently.

“As mechanisation caught up with rising demand, lack of trained manpower at local level surfaced. Without adequately skilled and locally available manpower it is not possible to address the gap in agriculture productivity and food production,” said Mr. R. Mukundan, Managing Director, Tata Chemicals Ltd.

National Institute of Agricultural Marketing (NIAM) was the academic partner for evaluating and certifying technicians.

The ‘Farm Technician Certification Program’ is a year long classroom plus on-the-job training, which seeks to instil the fundamentals of operating high tech farm equipments like rotavator, laser leveller, seed cum ferti drill, reaper etc. blended with theoretical lessons on land levelling, deep ploughing, crop sowing, nutrition and protection to rural youth who were unable to pursue education due to certain reasons, according to a release.

The company partnered with farm equipment manufacturers John Deere to impart technical training in farm equipments for the programme.

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